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Fire in Wide Sargasso Sea Essay


In the novel Wide Sargasso Sea, Jean Rhys presents parallelism with the motif of fire. The first occurred in part one when Antoinette was younger, where she suffered from a weak identity because her mother closed her off and left her to emotionally deal with life alone. The second fire occurred in part three, where Antoinette finally came to terms with her purpose and knew what she had to do to set her free. Both these fires have significant effects on the future and set Antoinette free on both occasions as well as symbolizing both political and emotional rebellion and madness.

The first fire ignited when ex-servants of the Cosway family rioted because of the rumor that Mr. Mason was going to import slaves from the East Indies. The parrot that had his wings clipped represents that he is no longer free and is essentially trapped and symbolizes Antoinette and her mother being trapped in the house under Mr. Masons control. The parrot also symbolized Antoinettes mothers madness for she was accused of talking to herself and the parrot would ask himself Quiest la? Quiest la? and answer himself Che Coco, che Coco. Antoinette even admitted that her mother was going mad by saying she was part of Coulibri, that had gone, so she had gone, I was certain of it.The fire killed the parrot, but in turn set him free, foreboding that fire will be the only way for Antoinette to set herself free from her loveless marriage. This first fire caused the family to have to relocate, allowing Antoinette and her mother to start over in a new area, and leave behind the isolated, racist, and judgmental past they lived. The fire though, was also the tipping point that sends Antoinettes mother into deep madness, because her son Pierre past away and causes Antoinette to close off because her closest friend threw a rock at her head. Though the madness was a horrible thing, it set her mother free from Mr. Masons strong control because of her attempt to kill him, he refused to see her.

The second fire was different because it was under Antoinettes control. Antoinette had never been an emotionally stable woman but ever since her marriage to Rochester , an Englishman who married her for money and did not love her, she went in a spiral downwards following her mothers footsteps. During the end of her time in the Caribbean Islands, Rochester made her hate it there, everything he did took a shot at her identity until he took finally took her to England and locked her away in the attic. Locking her away symbolizes the control he had over her because she was so far gone. During her time there she experienced a reoccurring dream and the third time she had it the dream finished and in the dream she went into the hall again with the tall candle in my hand. It was then that I saw her the ghost. The woman with streaming hair. She was surrounded by a gilt frame but I knew her. I dropped the candle I was carrying and it caught the end of a tablecloth and I saw flames shoot up. As I ran perhaps floated or flew I called help me Christophine help me and looking behind me I saw that I had been helped. There was a wall of fire protecting me but it was too hot, it scorched me and I went away from it. Finally finishing the dream Antoinette realizes that it symbolizes what she must do to become free. The scene in the dream where she recognized the ghost (who is Antoinette) symbolizes that when she is set free she will find herself again. Setting Thornfield Hall on fire, would show a huge step forward in rediscovering herself by controlling something herself which she hasnt been able to do all her life. The fire would also release her from the control Rochester had on her by locking her in the attic, like the fire did with her mother from Mr. Masons control. The book ends before she actually starts the fire but she states I know why I was brought here and what I have to do. There must have been a draught for the flame flickered and I thought it was out. But I shielded it with my hand and it burned up again to light me along the dark passage. Antoinette ultimately re-took control over her own body and mind and shows a huge increase in self-identity and the end of the book.

The first fire sets Antoinette free from the horrible childhood she experienced, even though it haunts her throughout the book. The first fire also set her mother free from Mr. Mason by causing her to go mad. The second fire has a parallel effect on her having the same fate as her mother by setting her free from Rochester, but in turn helps her turn away from madness.

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